Cale Case Shuts Down Chuck Gray In Angry Exchange Over Election Bills

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, had enough of Secretary of State Chuck Gray during a legislative committee meeting Friday, shutting down Gray as they sparred over election bills.

LW
Leo Wolfson

October 31, 20237 min read

Collage Maker 30 Oct 2023 09 04 PM 9311

At the end of two long days of meetings Friday afternoon, state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, decided he wasn’t going to hear any more of what Secretary of State Chuck Gray had to say about proposed election legislation being considered by the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.

Case, who co-chairs the committee, angrily cut Gray off from speaking via Zoom as the secretary of state criticized a suggestion Case had floated to combine some or all of the roughly six elections-related bills the committee passed during the interim session into one bill.

Case took that criticism personally and shut Gray down.

“I think your imputation of my integrity and the fact I’m trying to open this up has really got under my skin,” Case said. 

Gray apologized and assured Case that wasn’t his intent. 

Unprecedented?

Drawing the most irritation from Case was an argument Gray made that combining bills as a single piece of legislation would be a mostly unprecedented move in the history of the Wyoming Legislature. Gray said he only knew of a few instances of this happening during his time in the Legislature and he never saw it happen after legislation already passed through a committee.

“While I would have appreciated an opportunity to share these substantive concerns, there had been no opportunity to comment on such a proposal during the interim,” Gray told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “However, when I tried to express my concerns, my comments were abruptly cut off and I was unable to proceed.”

Gray also pointed out to Case that there was no notice of the proposal put on the meeting agenda.

“I would be down there today if it was on the agenda,” he said, testifying virtually from a parked car. 

Case cut Gray off and accused him of making a false insinuation, saying the proposal to combine the bills had been brought up multiple times during the interim session.

“Mr. Secretary, that is not true and I just don’t appreciate that,” Case said. “We’ve frequently combined election bills and there has been a head-up about it the whole way through.”

Case also said he’s become tired of Gray making comments that aren’t necessarily based in fact, telling Gray that, “you do a lot of anecdotal things sir.”

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‘Had I Been Able To Continue …”

Although Gray acknowledged that Case has spent much more time than he did in the Legislature at 29 years compared to his five, the Secretary of State said he had never witnessed the combining of bills on any committee he had served on.

Case has served on the Corporations Committee for 22 years and is in his 12th year of serving as chairman. Gray never served on this committee.

Gray told Cowboy State Daily that had Case given him more chance to speak, the chairman would have better understood his concerns.

“Had I been able to continue with my comments, I would have elaborated on my concerns with combining this diverse set of bills on the eve of an election year,” Gray said. “While there is often a great deal of talk about decorum and civility, I’m getting concerned with its one-sided application by the media.”

Case told Cowboy State Daily the feeling of being disrespected is mutual.

“I didn’t think Mr. Gray was being so respectful either,” he said.

Gray asked Case if he could continue with his comments after being cut off, a request the chairman denied.

“I think we’re done, Mr. Secretary,” Case said.

Reacting with disbelief, Gray questioned Case why he would cut him off on a topic that wasn’t on the meeting agenda.

Case explained again that he had said throughout the summer and fall that the election bills could be combined, which drew Gray to ask if he could continue his comments if he changed topics.

Case told Gray he understood that he was against the proposal and thanked him for his time.

Final Message

Case then acknowledged to the rest of the committee that there wasn’t much appetite for his idea, but offered a final summary of the exchange. Although he apologized to the committee and said he lost his patience, he didn’t apologize to Gray. 

“Let me be very clear, and I’m very angry about this because it was only done for the purpose of efficiency and combining the bills with respect to the titles under elections so that we have one bill that has a better chance of being introduced than not,” he said. 

Case told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that his proposal didn’t deserve any “consternation” and was simply a suggestion he voiced to give the more than dozen pieces of legislation passed by the committee a better chance of passing into law. 

Case said committee bills don’t get as much respect as they used to in the Legislature and are now more difficult to pass into law. He also said there has been a general decline in trust in the Legislature and more “knee-jerk reactions.”

“They’re greeted with more suspicion,” Case said. “There’s a desire to have us do less reform in areas.”

During a budget session, a non-budgetary bill needs a ⅔ vote just to be introduced and to pass.

Case’s proposal would have combined all six elections bills under one title, which he said he heard described by some detractors as an opening up of the state’s elections laws. The committee didn’t express any interest in Case’s proposal.

Before he was cut off, Gray commended the Corporations Committee for its work during the interim session.

“The committee has done positive work during the interim session, and I had major concerns about combining diverse bills at the last minute after they had already passed,” he said.

Past Issues

Gray and Case have been at odds in the past as Case firmly endorsed Gray’s 2022 Republican primary opponent Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne. After Gray beat Nethercott in the primary, Case launched a short-lived campaign to recruit an Independent candidate to take on Gray in the general election.

For that, Case was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party.

On the surface, relations seemed to go relatively smoothly between Gray and Case during the 2023 interim session with Gray saying on multiple occasions that they don’t have to agree on everything and the two communicating respectively.

Case said he’s frustrated at what he perceives a lack of trust between Gray and his committee.

He brought up the example of a bill that would have clarified state law on the topic of crossover voting, the process of changing one’s party affiliation to influence another party’s primary election. Case’s bill would have clarified that this law would not prevent new voters from registering.

“I like to have a discussion,” he said. “I’m not playing games, I’m really not.”

Gray and the Wyoming Republican Party expressed concern about the bill, the latter putting out an alert to party members to testify on the bill. Gray ended up presenting a memo stating that he would enforce the law with the same interpretation that the bill sought to achieve at last week’s meeting.

“I really feel like there’s a lack of trust,” Case said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter